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Author Topic: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)  (Read 5296 times)

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Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida
« Reply #25 on: September 27, 2020, 12:32:03 PM »
So, once again, not much has happened over the past couple of weeks. At least it feels like that.

My hibiscus has bloomed a couple more times. The Clarke's Blue morning glories have started blooming. My eggplant is still growing and every day I'm out there trying to hand-polinate each of the new flowers hoping for more eggplants. I've never eaten eggplant outside of a couple of tries over my life of eggplant parm and I hated it. It's a mouth-feel thing I think. I found a couple recipes I would like to try if my eggplant makes it to being full-grown.


More of my morning glories have bloomed, same with the cypress vine flowers and moonflowers. I've started harvesting the seeds from the pods so I can plant even more. I think I've harvested more than I've planted. The lima bean plant I placed into the sidewalk planter has a ton of little flowers on it and it's packed with green pods. I planted cucumber seeds as well over the past two weeks and I have a bunch of little seedlings coming up.


I have a green pepper growing and a couple of little starts of green peppers. The poblano pepper is still growing and I have a fat little green chocolate habanero growing. I'm starting to see little flowers on the handful of pepper plants I have.

I cleaned up the tomato plants – doing what I've been putting off for weeks-months. Most I planted at the start of the year have not made it. It's just been too hot.

The sunflowers are gone from the planters in front of the fence. I've harvested 3 ziplock bags full of seeds. They were decimated by mealy bugs and heat and they turned a rusty color and shriveled and died. I've turned the soil and I planted more sunflowers and corn. I'm hoping the cooler weather will be better (you know...cooler than 100 degrees every day...)


I planted garlic and the beans I planted a couple weeks ago are growing well (black beans, pinto beans and dragon tongue beans) in the tall raised bed planter that I moved the chives and marigolds to. I also planted more potatoes again and they are starting to sprout.  Potatoes are crazy easy to grow and absolutely insane in how they start. Take a potato. Cut it up. Put it in dirt. You'll get these crazy green stalks that grow – out of cut up potatoes. When the stalks turn brown and die you dig them up and there are potatoes in the dirt waiting for you. That's it. It's stupid easy.

I've done a bit more baking. I actually killed my Kitchen Aid mixer. Did you know you could kill them? Ok, so it was more like I broke it's arm. Inside that metal beast of a mixer is a gear that has vinyl teeth. It's made to fail. This is a good thing. Crazy scary when it happens, but it keeps the actual motor from burning up. The mixer makes noise and you know it's still “on” but it's not turning. I was making brioche chocolate chunk pretzel dough. The chocolate had not been added yet – it was just the dough being beaten by the paddle attachment. And then...it wasn't. I finished the pretzels literally by hand – I kneaded the last part – the butter, into the dough, then the chocolate. They came out great if I do say so myself. I had actually made strawberry jam marshmallows just before thankfully. I had played with the idea of making the pretzels first because they had to rise for a little while.

I'm not one of those who chucks the broken thing. This is more than evident in my life. I got the tools out, watched a YouTube video and opened up the Kitchen Aid. It's pretty amazing in there. Full of grease. The gear shredded and there were shards of yellow vinyl in the grease. I needed to open it up to make sure it was the gear – there are multiple pieces that can fail, but this is the main one – meant to fail and very inexpensive to replace and I was hoping beyond hope that it was the problem and it was. I ordered the replacement part (2 of them...just in case) and they arrived thanks to Amazon, 2 days later. The broken mixer sat in pieces on the dining room table until it arrived and 15 minutes later I had a fixed mixer.

« Last Edit: September 27, 2020, 01:06:20 PM by JuliettaRossi »

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #26 on: October 28, 2020, 09:22:36 PM »
It's been a month... I feel like nothing has happened and I'm exhausted.

There has been very little in the way of gardening. It's still been too hot outside, too humid. I have still been hand-pollinating the eggplant (or at least trying to - nothing has taken yet). Most of tomatoes have died in the heat. My marigolds have bloomed and the beans are growing in the raised bed. I've been harvesting more and more lima beans out front along the walk way as well as seeds from the cypress vine and the morning glories. I've harvested so many seeds I'm considering selling them - I'll never be able to use them all!


The bell pepper never got very big but its already turning red, so it's ready to pick. The poblano is still growing well. I harvested some more okra and the one eggplant - all of which were fed to the squirrels. My two days off from work started at 5 pm today. I'm hoping to get outside and plant some more things. The weather should be turning a bit better, so I'm hoping I'll be able to tolerate being outside. I've baked a bit as well - oatmeal raisin cookies and chocolate chip zucchini bread and my first try at making Italian Rainbow Cookies. They didn't last long enough to actually get pictures of them cut... I'll be making more of those. During the next 4 days I'll also be experimenting with mirror glazing hopefully - add one more skill to the arsenal.


We are already thinking about Thanksgiving and what will be made. We are trying to figure out how we will all get together during a pandemic – if it will be like previous years, as if nothing else was actually going on. No one has traveled. This would be essentially the first time any of us will be really going anywhere or seeing anyone outside of home. Most of us have done nothing but quarantine at home for the sole purpose it feels that we might be able to do Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have a couple of recipes that are made every year that have become staples, but I'll be adding more this year I think, especially since I'm working from home and I have more time off this year than I ever have previously. Before I was always stressed for time and almost never had time off before Thanksgiving to bake. This year...I have time off starting from the Friday the week before! I'll have so much time to bake and I'll have pictures...

A couple of days ago a next door neighbor let us know that there was a baby squirrel outside. So...we have a new baby. Mom didn't make it and we found out today there was another baby that didn't make it either. The little girl is tiiiiinnnnnny! She's feisty though and she seems to be doing well. We had just released of our other squirrels about a week or two ago. Here we are with a new little one. At least she's past syringe feeding and she doesn't scream like other little ones have done. She's currently sleeping in her sock, sitting on my knee while I watch last Sunday's 60 Minutes.


I try not to bring “real life” into my writing on this blog, but I feel like politics and the pandemic are getting to me a little. The passing of RBG and the disgusting rush to push ACB into the empty position. Down to her wearing almost the identical handmaid's tale dress during questioning (Even though she's more of a wife ready and willing to give up rights and freedoms than an Offred any day). I'm just...I can't. Everything we watch is recorded so I can fast forward through the political trash. Election Day can't come fast enough. My cousin is offering help if we seek asylum in France. If I had the ways and means we would already be over there. I also can't speak French - I've tried. Everything comes out with a Spanish accent lol

Online Oniya

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #27 on: October 29, 2020, 11:09:16 PM »
I don't know if you're aware, but Bob Ross used to have a squirrel friend.  https://www.twoinchbrush.com/animal/15

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #28 on: November 04, 2020, 08:17:52 PM »
Aww, I was not aware of this :) I find out more and more that squirrels are a normal-ish pet of sorts with the more people I meet. I don't know if it's just here in Florida with the storms we have - there is a propensity for squirrels raining down during high winds and storms. We have met quite a number of people who have rescued and/or kept the squirrel inside after the discovery. We get busy during hurricane season - luckily, this year has been relatively quiet and we have not been busy with critters. Things have been crazy enough without having (more) squirrels to add to the issues.

Offline RedPhoenix

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #29 on: November 04, 2020, 08:40:42 PM »
What a beautiful garden and adorable little fuzzy friend. :)

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #30 on: December 06, 2020, 10:15:48 AM »
The day after I posted the last entry our car died - while driving. Just shut off. Luckily we were not on a busy road and there was area to pull off immediately. We coasted to a stop and sat there for the next two hours waiting for AAA - around the corner from our home (because you have to be there for the tow truck). Once the truck got there and took away our car, we walked home - thankfully, as stated, around the corner from our house essentially because while Covid-19 rages, the tow truck drivers aren't taking passengers. We ended up burning out the starter trying to figure out what was going on - was it the battery? The alternator? The starter? We had it towed to a mechanic from our home. He replaced the starter, but couldn't for the life of him, figure out what was going on. It just would not turn over. There was a recall on the car. We had it towed to the nearest dealership. They kept it a week, supposedly fixed the recall issue and said it was running. Ubered to the dealership, to get back a car that now drove with a concerning knocking sound coming from the engine. The car died again while driving a week later - with the knocking intensifying and unable to go over 2500 rpm/speed up with any urgency. We had been driving between 35-40 mph most of the time during the week. When it died you could hear a "gurgling" sound coming from the engine... When it died, we were in traffic, but able to coast into a car dealership. We once again waited for AAA and Ubered home. This time we had it taken directly to another dealership location. They kept it a week before doing the test needed to figure out that it was due to the recall on their engines. Despite the aggravation and inconvenience, we are getting a new engine free of charge and we have a rental car paid for by the dealership. We have no timeline for getting our vehicle back though... Thankfully it's a really nice rental vehicle...

During this time, we spent A LOT of time at home. Very little of it was spent outside as the heat turned up here. It was mostly work and during the weekend working on side business stuff (more may be revealed in the coming months). I harvested seeds from the vines out front. The vines are looking horrible. I need to cut most of it back, replace the netting with something a bit more durable in this Florida heat - it started disintegrating and just shredding, so we pulled most of the netting down. The only parts left are those with vines, but even in that area it has started to shred under the weight of the vines.

The sunflowers I planted earlier are all starting to bloom. I think these are the lemon sunflowers. They didn't get as tal as I thought they might! I had visions of the the height of the autumn beauty sunflowers. These only grew about 2 feet tall then bloomed. I have corn coming up as well - about the same height right now.


I did harvest more okra, another eggplant and one lone poblano pepper. I have another pepper growing and the eggplant plants are full of flowers. The marigolds are blooming. I harvested what little black eyed peas grew and I'm still harvesting little lima beans out front. I did have a little lizard that took up residence on one of the leaves of the black eyed pea plants. Every day I would go outside and he was on the same leaf. It was very cute. I loaned out my seed book to a relative and haven't gotten it back so I can't plant anything right now.


Thanksgiving came and went. It was a small very strange affair. There were people missing this year - family held 3 different Thanksgivings around the state instead of us all coming together. It was the first time without my Uncle. He's pretty much my father figure. My cousins are very much like my brothers and sisters to me - or at least as close as I know to that. I'm an only child raised by a single mother. Unfortunately we don't know how to scale down...there was once again so much food - definitely something to be thankful for - it created those leftovers to feed us all for the coming days. We needed that little bit of get together time - even if it was just a handful of us, it was quality time spent with family. Everyone is back to quarantining in order for us ALL to be together for Christmas.

For Thanksgiving I made the stuffing this year - a recipe passed down from grandma. I don't know if you've ever had cornbread stuffing - raw. Yes, I mean eat it raw. It's fabulous. Screw concerns of salmonella. I think it's better raw than cooked honestly. I bought more supplies to make more this week. We had two turkeys - one fried, one smoked. My cousin did great with both. His girlfriend, who I adore, makes absolutely wonderful riced cauliflower with garlic and mozzarella and cream cheese. I need her recipe - I have all the supplies for that too! As for me - I baked. And baked. There was the yearly spice cookies and pumpkin dip, a perfect pumpkin roll (thank you British Baking Show), fresh cranberry sauce, pecan pie brownies, yeast rolls, and two kinds of French macarons - pomegranate, with homemade pomegranate jam centers, and pumpkin spice cheesecake macarons. If you've never seen pomegranates, never peeled them, tasted them, they are beautiful. The inside is packed with little garnet gems. It's one of my favorite fall flavors.


Next up is Christmas. Time to start looking at recipes and making a plan. It looks like we will be traveling south for the holiday. It's been a year since I've been home due to the virus and car issues (we were supposed to head down there the end of Oct/early Nov).

Offline JuliettaRossiTopic starter

Re: New Gardening in Florida (and some baking)
« Reply #31 on: January 01, 2021, 09:55:50 AM »

Happy New Year from the land of falling iguanas and absolute crazy people.

We got our car back after Thanksgiving – complete with a brand new engine free of charge due to the recall. Don't buy a KIA. You've been warned.

I fell after Thanksgiving. I fell hard. Off a step-stool onto the concrete walkway while cutting down the old morning glory and cypress vines out front. I fell backward and onto my back with my head bouncing off the (thankfully) grassy ground – the concrete stopped just above my shoulders. I kinda got lucky...kinda? My back has been killing me. I think I had a slight concussion – complete with headaches and soreness, my neck aching. I also tweaked a wrist that I put out to try to catch myself (and I guess thankfully caught nothing, but hit the concrete instead).

Needless to say, I haven't done much of anything since. It hurts to stand for more than a few minutes. With walking in even less time. I'm spending a lot of time on the heating pad and have been taking an insane amount of ibuprofen (for me). I have done nothing – absolutely nothing outside since falling.

I made French macarons for a repeat customer for a baby shower and she allowed me free reign for design and sent me a picture of the cake to go on. There is nothing more that an artist, a baker, a designer, etc loves than when a client gives you a theme and says go for it.


We did go down south for the holidays. I got to see a handful of family members – all of us have been quarantining in order for this to happen. Still there were some who couldn't make it. My uncle has Covid, He likely got it from his wife who is a nurse. There are absolutely no protective measures happening in their area of Georgia. The facility my aunt is working at has no criteria except feeling well or not feeling well. They aren't testing, aren't checking temperature. I doubt they are wearing masks. This is deep in denial/hoax/”it's only the flu” country. On Christmas day my uncle was allowed out of his quarantine room to watch presents being opened by other family members. He wore a mask and sat off in the dark while everyone else didn't wear masks – with my aunt there among everyone while she is the one taking care of him. He's been in and out of the hospital with this and he has extenuating circumstances that make him more likely to die from Covid as well.

I did get some baking done for the holidays. I was really feeling those German Christmas roots this year. I made a triple chocolate gingerbread bundt cake, pfeffernusse cookies, Gingerbread men and trees complete with royal icing, and lots of marshmallows – roasted pineapple, espresso, toasted coconut, and eggnog (made with fabulous Farm Stores eggnog). I planned to make French macarons, but with the humidity, the egg whites wouldn't whip. They were going to be cute too... Oh well. We had more than enough though, which I'm more than thankful for.


Today I will be making black eyed peas with hamhocks and extra ham along with some golden cornbread drizzled with honey to usher in the new year. Hopefully 2021 will be a better year for many.